‘tick, tick…BOOM!’ producer Julie Oh on making ‘a love letter to theater at a time you couldn’t go see a musical’

“I grew up absolutely obsessed with ‘Rent,'” remembers producer Julie Oh about the classic Jonathan Larson musical, but she didn’t discover Larson’s earlier autobiographical musical “tick, tick… Boom!” until 2014, when she saw the Encores! production starring Lin-Manuel Miranda. “There are very few moments in your life when you see something and it feels like it was written for you, and you sit there in the audience and the first thing that you want to do is share it with someone.” We talked with Oh as part of our “Meet the Experts” Film Producers Panel. Watch our exclusive video interview with Oh above.

“After I saw it I immediately asked myself, why doesn’t the world know about this extraordinary story of struggling, not knowing where you’re going to go, being at a crossroads in life and having to choose a path?” Oh adds. Well, if the world didn’t know about it before, they’ll know about it now that Oh has helped bring it to Netflix with Miranda directing and Andrew Garfield starring as Larson as he struggles to balance his artistic ambitions with his personal relationships in 1990 New York City.

Trying to acquire the movie rights led Oh to Julie Larson, Jonathan’s sister who “really took up the torch after he passed away 25 years ago and has been championing his legacy ever since … [She] gave us so much trust and love. And what we understood was that we had an enormous responsibility to get this right, and to do justice to her brother’s work.” With that in mind, “the only person that was ever going to direct this movie was Lin-Manuel Miranda.”

And given Miranda’s stature in the theater community, it’s no surprise how many Broadway vets make appearances in his film. “The more you look at all of the actors that came to the table for this movie, the more you realize just how nerdy we are when it comes to musical theater,” Oh explains. And because the film was shot during the COVID pandemic when live theater was shot down, “we were making a love letter to theater at a time when you couldn’t go see a musical for the first time.”

COVID also made the story resonate in a new way, since it was set in 1990 when the AIDS epidemic was ravaging the gay community. Oh felt “like the themes that are within the movie started to just creep closer and closer to all of us personally.” But “as a producer, your job is to protect everyone on your crew and your cast, everyone who is there to do their best work.”

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